Diane’s Country Music Newsletter — 27 July 2022


Janie Fricke came to the Sisseton Performing Arts Center in Sisseton, South Dakota, last Friday evening. Brother Keith and sister Kayo were there with me for the show. Janie came onstage at 8 p.m. and kicked off with “Somebody Else’s Fire,” a song she said came from “my new greatest hits album, called Complete Hits.” I looked it up later, and the title is It Ain’t Easy–The Complete Hits, released in 2019. The song was a top ten hit in 1985.

She introduced her steel player as “Danny from Texas.” I later learned he was Danny Naccarato of Fort Worth. I remembered him being with Gene Watson and playing his sax on “The Old Man and His Horn.” Janie introduced all the musicians by first name and “from Texas.” The other four played lead guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, and the drummer was her husband/manager Jeff Steele. Janie picked up her acoustic guitar for several songs.

Janie, now 74, grew up on a farm in Indiana. She and her sister sang in a little country church and her mother played piano. Although she wanted a musical career, her mother insisted she get a college education, and she obtained an elementary education degree from Indiana University. She was hired to work in a vocal group in Memphis, where she sang jingles. She rattled off a few of the jingles for us, such as “Aren’t you glad you use Dial?” and “United we fly. Fly the friendly skies.”

She went from jingles to being a backup singer after she moved to Nashville. She sang backup on Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried,” which she demonstrated for us with the keyboard player singing the song, and Janie coming in at “21 in prison doing life without parole.”

She told us about overdubbing backup vocals on the recording of Elvis Presley’s last live concert, which was in Rapid City. She sang “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.” When I researched Elvis’s last concerts, I discovered he performed in Rapid City on June 21, in Sioux Falls on June 22, and his last concert was in Indianapolis on June 26, 1977.

As many of us old-timers know, Janie came to national attention when she sang uncredited harmony with Johnny Duncan on “Stranger” in 1976. She reprised that song for us with the lead guitarist singing the song, and her ear-catching vocal coming in on “Shut out the light and lead me…” She told us she and Johnny enjoyed singing together so well that they then recorded “Come a Little Bit Closer.” Janie did get credit on that, and it was her first top ten hit. She eventually had nine #1s in a decade, along with sixteen consecutive top tens in the 1980s. She sang a few of those recognizable songs for us, including “Single Again” and “He’s a Heartache (Looking For a Place to Happen.)”

She said many songwriters go to Nashville and stay there and write songs. This one went to Nashville, wrote one song, and went back home to Texas to his construction job. Without giving us his name, she sang “Always Have, Always Will,” which was a #1 for her in 1986. The songwriter was Johnny William Mears, who published thirty songs, but perhaps that was his only hit.

Janie told us her last time in South Dakota was “a long time ago,” “in a little town called Watertown” where she played a casino. That would have been the Dakota Sioux Casino.

Her 65-minute show ended with “It Ain’t Easy,” and she came back for one encore song before leaving the stage. You can learn more about her and her tour schedule at https://www.janiefricke.com/.

Jay Dean from Aberdeen introduced Janie, and John Seiber introduced the opening act, Remington. Both men have classic country radio shows on 96.9 KDLO Country in Watertown. I frequently listen to John on Sunday mornings and Jay on Sunday evenings via the internet.

The next show at the Sisseton Performing Arts Center will be the Bellamy Brothers on Saturday, September 17. I’ll be there to enjoy that one as well. John Seiber says tickets are going fast, and he expects a sold-out show. Come join us if you’re within driving distance.


Faron Young’s attorney, Grant Smith, died July 10 in Nashville at age 85. He passed away peacefully, with his wife of almost 55 years, Mary Ann, by his side. His obituary says he was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1936, and he served in the Navy as an aerial photographer after graduating from high school in 1954. He then attended the University of Tennessee where he completed his doctorate in law and started a law practice with former governor Frank Clement in 1966. He later established a practice as a copyright attorney on Music Square West. Having Faron Young as a client probably broadened his experience. He handled Faron’s divorce and numerous arrests for alcoholic offenses. I had several phone conversations with him in 2000 while working on Faron’s biography. I don’t know why I took notes instead of recording the conversations. I regret that I don’t have a transcript to provide an “In Their Own Words” segment in this newsletter. He had some humorous stories to tell. Grant was buried at the Nashville National Cemetery in Madison.

Breaking news: The death of Tony Dow, 77, was reported in error on July 26. According to Deadline, Lauren Dow, his wife of 42 years, mistakenly thought he died during the night. He’s been in hospice care at their home and had health issues overnight. His son, Christopher Dow, told Fox News, “Yes, he is still alive, but in his last hours.” Best known for his role as big brother Wally Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver, Tony announced in May that he was battling cancer. Born in Los Angeles, he had more than three dozen acting credits during his six-decade career. Leave It to Beaver aired more than 230 episodes during its run from 1957 and 1963.

Anthology Part II, The Next Five Years, the second Garth Brooks anthology, will be released November 15. PEOPLE reports it picks up where Anthology, Part 1: The First Five Years ended and details what happened from 1996-2001. Trisha Yearwood explains, “The way I see it, Garth spent the first five years of that crazy ride just hanging on for dear life. In the second five years, you start to see a captain steering his own ship.” Garth, 60, will also release a six-disc set of highlights from albums issued during that period.

Country Rewind Records has released a new album called Leroy Van Dyke – True Treasures. Leroy Van Dyke says in a press release, “I thank each and every person on the label, all of whom did masterful work in their respective aspects of this product’s development. The attention to detail and professionalism is superb, and I know our country music fans will treasure it,” The release states, “Many people remember the Leroy Van Dyke Show and his role as a co-host on Country Crossroads with legendary DJ Bill Mack for 10 years which aired on WBAP radio syndicated to 800 stations and is a part of radio history.” The project is being distributed by Select-O-Hits in national and international markets. In addition to physical CDs, the music is available for streaming and download on all digital music platforms, including LeroyVanDyke.lnk.to/TrueTreasuresPR.

Chapel Hart’s recent performance of “You Can Have Him Jolene” for their America’s Got Talent (AGT) audition captured the attention of millions, including Loretta Lynn, who posted on Facebook, “I love it, ladies. Now I’m wondering what you might be able to do with one of my songs!” Dolly Parton tweeted, “What a fun new take on my song, @ChapelHartBand! Carl’s birthday is today so I think I’ll hang on to him, and I’m not notifying Jolene that today is his birthday.” The Grand Ole Opry then invited them to make their debut on August 20. Darius Rucker announced the group will make a special appearance on his forthcoming album. Chapel Hart is comprised of sisters Danica (lead singer) and Devynn Hart and their cousin Trea Swindle. They’re from Hart’s Chapel in Poplarville, Mississippi. “We’ve always been country music fans, and Dolly is by far our favorite,” Danica said during their AGT introduction. “We were so inspired by the song Jolene, and we loved the story line, and we figured though from 1973 to 2022 we could not be still fighting over the same man. So we decided to tell her, you can just have him, Jolene.” When asked if they’d been trying to get a record deal, Danica said, “We’ve been trying to break into Nashville for the last couple of years, but it’s been kinda hard. I think country music doesn’t always look like us.” Here is some true country music.

Dale Watson is asking fans for help in recovering his one-of-a-kind guitar that was stolen on July 16. “We went to eat dinner at Christie’s Seafood Restaurant in Houston and my black van was stolen while we were eating dinner,” he posted on social media. Although other items were stolen, he said, “the one thing that has been with me almost 30 years is my guitar. It’s unique, so if by chance you see it in a pawn shop, please let me or the Houston Police know.” Taste of Country reports the body of the guitar is covered in coins that Dale collected when traveling through Europe just before the euro became the common currency. “I had all these coins from all over the world, and they were going to be useless — the German Deutsche Mark, the French franc, the Italian lira — all these different coins, and I just couldn’t throw them away,” he says. “To me, it’s sentimental and reminds me of where I’ve been.”

Whiskey Riff reports that Alan Jackson will soon be a grandfather. His middle daughter, Ali Jackson Bradshaw, and her husband Sam Bradshaw are expecting a baby boy in December. When Ali married Sam in 2020, Alan sang a song he wrote for her wedding, called “I Do.” It is on his latest album, Where Have You Gone.


Matt York writes, “I just wanted to drop you a quick note to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed reading your Faron Young book. He certainly seemed like an easy person to root for, when he was sober. I’ve always loved his music and voice. I’m a traveling musician/author based in Boston and do this thing called The Highwaymen – Songs & Stories, where I’m currently going to 120 different cities and towns in Massachusetts in 2022 performing the songs of the Highwaymen and telling some stories about their careers. I imagine I’ll get into your Marty Robbins book soon.”

Terry Pinkerton says, “Steve Earle had a hot minute of fame as a country artist when Guitar Town was released in 1986. He is a gifted songwriter who seems to me a practitioner of the Cosmic American Music in the vein of folk, bluegrass, country, blues, and rock. We went to see him with his hot supporting band (the Dukes) last night for a packed, sold-out show at the Dakota in Minneapolis.”

Bob Dalton, YN2(SS), says, “It was a pleasure to meet you and your sister. Please add me to your mailing list, and the best of luck Cap’t with your new book.”

Jean and Alan Earle write, “Greetings from Great Britain. Plenty of good news in this issue….and thank you for including the happy picture of Faron with his cute friend, little Nipper. Take good care of yourself…and we send best wishes to everyone who are trying to keep clear of this wretched virus. Sorry to read it is still causing illness and trouble over there. Hope the President makes a swift and complete recovery. In England we have just had a few days of extremely high temperature, which we are just not used to. We missed the comfort of the Tennessee air conditioning! Looking forward now to cooler temperatures and some Autumn colours.”

Jean Earle then writes, “We are having rather sad times here. I have just been told of the death of a very dear friend of ours. You will recognise his name as soon as I write it…Jim Marshall. Jim worked so hard, for years and years, to spread the good news about Country Music. He was the backbone of the BCMA…everyone knew and liked Jim. I hesitate to say any more……I think you will be hearing from many folk who knew and admired Jim. Tony Blackburn had the sad task of giving the sad news to me. I expect you will be sent many pictures of Jim…he was always so active in the Country Music scenes. Jim organised three coach loads of CM fans in 1976 wanting to make the journey of a lifetime, to visit Music City. He gave us all the opportunity to fly from these shores …out into the far horizon and fulfill our dreams. We were brave to take that step…real pioneers!…and Jim looked after us so very well. We have lost a lovely, friendly, hardworking gentleman. I think he will have many friends in Nashville who will also miss Jim Marshall.”

Diane: I’m so sorry to hear that, Jean. He was one of my newsletter subscribers.

Mary Lorefice wonders, “Whatever happened to Pirates of The Mississippi? ‘Feed Jake’ is a poignant song.”

Diane: The group disbanded in 1996.

Bobby Fischer says, “Queen of the country music updates, a proud naval officer, thanks for researching the facts. Ever think of going back out on the ocean?”

Diane: No. Although I would like to take a country music cruise.

Moragh Carter writes from the United Kingdom, “Thanks again for your wonderfully informative newsletter. Maybe you’ll remember about me mentioning the biography of Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan that I wrote a while back. I have now written another book. It is a children’s picture book called The Adventures of Digby Deep. A few pages can be read on https://store.bookbaby.com/book/the-adventures-of-digby-deep. The other thing I wanted to tell you is how much I enjoyed your book Mommy! Watch Me. I found it such a moving story and I had a hard job to put it down until I had finished reading it. I often wonder how your girls are doing now, in all the years since your story about them ends. I hope they are doing well in life and are continuing to bring you much happiness.”

Diane: They are doing well, Moragh. Thank you for asking.

Dominique ‘Imperial’ Anglares says, “Thanks for your newsletter that keeps me connected with the Country Music world while being miles away from the home.”

Diane Jordan writes from Nashville, “I wanted to let you know I really enjoyed your interview with Jennifer McCarter. It was especially interesting to read that The McCarters were too country to work at Dollywood. Jennifer and her twin sisters were absolutely gorgeous, and their harmony was perfect, so it was no surprise that their first album was so successful. I was pleased that Bobby Fischer wrote to you about the recent passing of Al Cooley, and that you included it in your newsletter. On July 18, I will be attending ‘A Toast To Al Cooley,’ hosted by songwriter Bob DePeiro. Cooley, as we called him, was a good friend of mine. I met him in the late 1970s and used to drop in to see him at his various offices on Music Row. We lost touch sometime in the late 1980s and then he found me on Facebook two years ago. We had a lot of long lunches at Olive Garden, spending sometimes five hours swapping music biz stories and laughing a lot. He quit smoking about ten years ago, but it wasn’t soon enough. Here is Cooley’s obituary in the Music Row Report.

David Markham writes from Great Britain, “Good to hear from you once again with good news not too much that I can talk about. But as long as you’re enjoying your writing and reading, fine weather is reaching 30c to 41c. Reminds me when my wife and I stayed at the Days Inn Motel on Old Hickory Boulevard, early morning before going out on a drive. My wife didn’t like too much heat, but it didn’t bother me. I called on an old friend for the first time after 20 years of writing to her for a chat at her museum. There she was, Ms. Kitty. Anyway, how’s Randy Travis coming along? I go the Hospital to get my heart checked out after my Accident at home. Look forward to your next Newsletter.”

Mike McCloud says, “What a nice birthday gift. July 13 is my birthday. I share a birthday with country singer Rhonda Vincent. Thank you for sending a newsletter on my birthday.”

Rick Russell writes from Asheville, North Carolina, “I have read your interview with Johnny Russell and seen you mention him a couple other times in your newsletters. Johnny was a cousin of mine and I’m writing his biography (long overdue!). Just wondering if you had any other talks with Johnny or had any Johnny Russell stories that you might be willing to share.”

Diane: If any readers would like to contribute to a Johnny Russell biography, please contact Rick at reminiscing@att.net.


Bill Anderson sent me the video link for his new duet with Dolly Parton, “Someday It’ll All Make Sense,” released July 21. Bill wrote the song with Bobby Tomberlin and Ryan Larkins: “Someday the picture will come into focus… Someday we’ll laugh at these roads that we’ve traveled… Someday it’ll all make sense…”The song is one of two duets with Dolly on Bill’s new album, As Far as I Can See: The Best of Bill Anderson. The other, “If It’s All the Same To You,” they recorded in 1964 when Dolly was new in town and singing demos for and with Bill. Here’s the Good Morning America clip that talks about the new recording and includes a video of Dolly’s style history.

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